Facebook claims it is restricting access to a New York Post story published Wednesday that suggests, via emails purportedly "obtained" by Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, some new untoward business involving Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian oil company he sat on the board of, Burisma.
As Vox reports, the emails in question may or may not be fabricated, and it's unclear how they made their way into Giuliani's possession — questions made all the more salient given what we learned during the impeachment proceedings last year, and Trump's dogged insistence that the Ukrainian president dig up something on the younger Biden to help his reelection chances. There's some convoluted story about how Giuliani got a hard drive from Steve Bannon who in turn got it from some unnamed Delaware computer repair shop owner, and Giuliani sat on it for 10 months before deciding to "leak" it to the Post — a Rupert Murdoch-owned paper that has long had a conservative bias and been supportive of Trump.
Facebook's policy communications manager Andy Stone announced on Twitter Wednesday morning that this Post story was "eligible to be fact checked by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners," and "we are reducing its distribution on our platform" pending that process.
While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.— Andy Stone (@andymstone) October 14, 2020
Stories like this can take on a life of their own in our post-fact world, however, and as The Verge notes, the story had already garnered 40,000 interactions on Facebook today and was widely being shared, amplified, and aggregated by other sources like Breitbart and Sean Hannity.
interesting challenge for this step by facebook: all of the aggregations of the new york post's story getting lots of interactions. i've reached out to see if these will be limited as well https://t.co/aLBJ4OC4O0 pic.twitter.com/A2ajQxOkBW— chris mills rodrigo (@chrisismills) October 14, 2020
Facebook pledged last October that it would be putting a variety of systems in place to protect the integrity of the 2020 election, and prevent foreign interference and the spread of misinformation that was seen during the 2016 election.
"We have a responsibility to stop abuse and election interference on our platform," said a group of Facebook executives including VP of Integrity Guy Rosen. "That’s why we’ve made significant investments since 2016 to better identify new threats, close vulnerabilities and reduce the spread of viral misinformation and fake accounts."
Since then, Facebook has been plagued with QAnon conspiracy promoters and a barrage of falsehoods by President Trump himself and Donald Trump Jr. about mail-in voting, much of which the company has failed to curtail.
In response, a Democrat-led nonprofit launched an attack ad last week directed at Mark Zuckerberg himself, calling for more accountability in the tech space and lobbying for more regulation of Facebook and other platforms.
As The Verge notes, Facebook restricted access to at least one previous story by the New York Post, an opinion piece which spread the disproven claim that the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan.
Photo: Alex Haney